The free online encyclopedia of Washington state history

7392 essays now available.

Diablo Dam incline railway climbing Sourdough Mountain, 1930. Courtesy Seattle Municipal Archives, 2306.
Children waving to ferry, 1950. Courtesy Museum of History and Industry.
Loggers in the Northwest woods. Courtesy Washington State Digital Archives.

This Week Then


News Then, History Now

Port Townsend Starts

On January 16, 1860, the Washington Territorial Legislature passed an act incorporating the city of Port Townsend, making it the fourth settlement in Washington to receive such a charter. The city traces its roots to 1851, when Alfred A. Plummer and Charles Bachelder settled in the area. This week also marks birthdays for Colfax, which incorporated on January 14, 1879, and Long Beach, which incorporated on January 18, 1922.

Knowledge and Smarts

On January 13, 1892, the opening of a solitary building on a treeless 25-acre campus near Pullman marked the first day of classes at the Washington Agricultural College. Since then the college has blossomed into Washington State University, one of the top public research universities in the United States. The university has undergone many changes, especially during the past half-century, while remaining faithful to its mission of expanding access to higher education for Washingtonians on both sides of the state.

First Two

On January 13, 1913, the opening day of Washington's 13th state legislative session, Frances C. Axtell and Nena Jolidon Croake took the oath of office along with 95 male colleagues in the House of Representatives. The two women were elected in November 1912 in the first state elections after Washington women gained the right to vote in 1910.

Sailing Through

Ninety years ago this week, on January 16, 1927, the Skansie Shipbuilding
launched the ferry Defiance to run on the Washington Navigation Company's route between Point Defiance in Tacoma and Gig Harbor across the Tacoma Narrows. The ferry route might have come to an end after the opening of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge in 1940, but complications extended the service for a few more years.

Breaking the Stream

Seventy-five years ago this week, on January 12, 1942, Seattle suddenly lost all electric power when an air-defense barrage balloon dragged its cable across transmission lines and shorted out City Light's grid. A year later, Puget Sound's wartime industries ground to a halt when snow and a cold snap hit the region on January 15, 1943. And on January 12, 1950, a huge winter blast knocked out power all across the state.

He Had a Dream

On Monday, January 16, the nation will honor the birth of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The holiday contrasts starkly with King's local reception back in 1961, when he made his only visit to Seattle at the invitation of his friend the Rev. Sam McKinney. Years later, the City of Seattle changed the name of Empire Way and helped to erect a permanent monument to salute the martyred champion of brotherhood and peace. In 2005, King County officially substituted the Rev. King for its original eponym, former slave owner and short-lived Vice President William Rufus DeVane King.

Today in
Washington History

New Essays This Week

Image of the Week

On January 12, 1929, the Great Northern Railway began service through the newly constructed Eight-Mile Tunnel.

Quote of the Week

We returned home pleased and profited by our trip, satisfied that the time is not very distant when Snohomish county will rank second to none in the Territory.

--Dr. Henry Smith

Major Funding Provided By

Education Partners